After emerging as Michigan’s most reliable offensive player down the stretch, freshman wing Franz Wagner will put off the NBA Draft and return for his sophomore season, according to a program release.
“It’s important for me to thank coach Howard and the staff for not only giving me the time to think about this decision, but also help me gather as much information as I could,” Wagner said, per the release. “Returning to Michigan is the right step for me not only as a basketball player, but as a person, too. This first season was a transition, competitive, fun and one of growth. I am very much looking forward to getting back to Ann Arbor and living that again.”
Wagner’s first season in Ann Arbor had no shortage of peaks and valleys. He averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds on 45 percent shooting and added a team-high 34 steals, but he missed the Wolverines’ first four games after fracturing his right wrist during a fall practice. Even when he returned, the lingering effects were clear in his shooting stroke as he sank just 29 percent of his looks from beyond the arc in November and December.
Ultimately, though, Wagner emerged as perhaps Michigan’s most reliable offensive player. He averaged a team-high 16.6 points on 62 percent shooting over his last five games, raising the question of whether he may be NBA-ready.
For Wagner, the decision to return for his sophomore year is an investment in his future. Under new NCAA rules, he would’ve been allowed to test the waters this spring in order to gather feedback from NBA scouts and return to school, but he will instead put his professional career on hold.
At 6-foot-9, Wagner would’ve been one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft class. He doesn’t turn 19 years old until August, and the combination of his long frame and two-way game could have piqued the interest of NBA teams looking for help on the wing.
Instead, he’ll be a focal point of Michigan’s offense in 2020-21. After earning All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors last season, he could be in the conversation for a preseason All-American selection this fall.
The Wolverines’ coaching staff has lauded Wagner — the younger brother of former Michigan standout Moritz Wagner — since landing his commitment last summer. Earlier this fall, Howard even claimed he could be one of the best players in program history earlier this fall.
“Other than strength, I don’t know what isn’t a perfect basketball player about him,” Michigan associate head coach Phil Martelli said in February. “… If he was a kid that played (high school basketball) in Michigan last year, he would’ve been a McDonald’s All-American. … He’s one of the best freshmen in America.”
After missing out on five-star guard Josh Christopher and losing five-star power forward Isaiah Todd to the NBA G League, Wagner’s return is the best news Michigan could’ve received going into the summer.